Normally when picking an album for this feature, it’s supposed to be something that the person doing the choosing definitively likes. This week instead, I went for something that mostly covered what would span the likability base of the Hobo Collective. Kimbra probably became most well-known to most of us through Gotye’s Somebody (That I Used To Know) and not so much via her first album. In The Golden Echo, she’s brought on a multitude of collaborators with her, Thundercat, Flying Lotus, Dave Longstreth, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Bilal, John Legend, Jonas Bjerre, Michael Shuman, Matt Bellamy and Mark Foster. Meaning, we’re in for a wild ride.
The Golden Echo can be streamed via NPR here
And here’s what the Hobo’s have to say:
In my book, Kimbra is mostly a singer and not an artist. Maybe that is why I don’t imagine her writing her own songs, but putting a bunch of professional song writers in a room somewhere and give them a task: „For my new album, please write me some songs that echo the golden age of nineties soul mainstream with modern production techniques.“ This scenario would explain some things. Firstly, the title. Secondly, the professionally constructed easy accessibility of the songs. And thirdly, why it kind of grew on me with subsequent spins. Because an echo of something good can still be pleasant.
I’m a huge fan of Kimbra. When my wedding DJ played Aeroplane’s remix of “Two Way Street”, I nearly lost my mind. Her debut album featured heady, mature lyrics about love and partnership, but failed to gain traction in the US. This second is a clear play for that traction – widely-ranging styles of pop that hearken back to the best – and worst – of “90s Music”. The array of pastiches reminds me of Kylie Minogue’s 2003 Body Language, which pulled from R&B, electroclash, and big beat to create a mindlessly fun (and concise) pop romp. I still love Kimbra and think she has great potential as a writer of pop hooks and smart lyrics. But one thing is clear – she’s no Kylie.
Kimbra has the vocal chops to deliver radio pop with the best of them, but she opts instead to be herself. Charismatic crescendos and key changes on the fly are what made me love her debut and “The Golden Echo” is no different. I was skeptical upon hearing the lead single “90s Music.” But, when fit into the album as a whole and prefaces with “Teen Heat,” it soars. This album sounds good with headphones, but I recommend a first listen in your car with the windows down.